Dresden Joswig, 32, San Francisco, CA

This year, as part of our Take Back The Beach program, we are asking YOU to tell us about your experiences with body talk and self-perception. Below, one reader's story.

"You'd Be Pretty If Your Hair Was Straight And You Weren't So Fat."

I've always felt just a little bit wrong.
My hips are wide, my ass is broad, and my calves are thick. My hair is dishwater brown and curly. And my skin is routinely peppered with green and purple bruises, origins unknown.
But my face always seemed... okay? I wasn't inspiring second looks from random passerby, but I wasn't feeling too insecure about it, either.
At 15, I understood where I ranked in a vague kind of way, but a comment from a classmate – a boy I saw every day on the train ride to school – made it all seem crystal clear.
"You'd be pretty if your hair was straight and you weren't so fat," he told me one morning.
It didn't feel great the first time I heard it, and since then, I've heard it said a hundred different ways.
I've said it to myself, when a swimsuit refused to cover my rear, or a halo of frizz erupted from my ponytail.
I've heard it echoing in my head, when an acquaintance attempted a compliment.
"Your waist is so tiny!" meant, "...because your ass is so big."
"It's so great that you don't straighten your hair!" meant, "...but you really should do something it."
I even used it to fuel an eating disorder, repeating the words in the face of hunger pains.
But, over time, the words have lost a bit of their edge.
I've found myself with a partner who loves the very things that I learned to hate at 15.
Big butts? His favorite.
And my hair? He doesn't even like it when I wear it straight.
But, at 32, I don't (much) care what he thinks. The weight of his compliments can't tip the scales back in the direction of self-love.
I can, though, on the good days.
If I'm lucky, I thank my wide ass and thick thighs for powering my walk to work, for letting me get low on the dance floor, for helping me climb big hills on my bike.
Some days, I even like my curls. I tell myself they make me stand out — and they balance out that big ass I've now started to love.
If you are struggling with an eating disorder and are in need of support, please call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237. For a 24-hour crisis line, text “NEDA” to 741741.
#TakeBackTheBeach essays are meant to reflect individual women's experiences. They have only been lightly edited (if at all) by Refinery29 and do not necessarily reflect the company's point of view. Refinery29 in no way encourages illegal activity or harmful behavior.
Have a story of body image and self-perception that you want to share? Submit your essay to our Take Back The Beach contest here.

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